It’s Russell Groves, but we know him also as ‘the wave hobbit’ from his website and signature!
He has sun wrinkles from lots of years of experience on salty water, we met him when he already had his long dreadlocks, we met him managing the Windsurfing Club Las Cucharas in Lanzarote, but where is he from? We are sure that many of you would like to know who this special Point-7 friend and P7 Blacksheep is!
Dear Russell, you are now living in Lanzarote. Where are you originally from? I am from England and I say I am from the Isle of Wight. This is where I really started to play with the Ocean.
How did you get close to surfing and windsurfing? Our house and my school were just 100m from the see. So, the beach and the sea were my playground. My school was a sports boarding school in the north of the island and we lived in the south. So, I slept in and only went home in holiday time, my sports program did not allow time for my Mum to get me everywhere and do my school work. School holidays were filled with either surfing or sailing. There was no windsurfing then.
How was life in the UK, and why did you decide to leave? The Isle of Wight is the most amazing place, it is very famous for sailing and surf. Racing and competing is in our blood. Once I left school, I had to leave to go to college. Always choosing a college that was on the coast. I went to art college in Bounmouth and university in Brighton. So, you could say I know the south coast quite well. After leaving university I tried to do a proper job for a while, but the love of the water and teaching won the game. The windsurf schools have quite a short season, but I sailed all year, finding part time work in the winter. I did not choose to leave the U.K. Fate just made it that way. I was asked to open a school for an English tour operator, so of course I said yes. It only took 3months, but I decided to stay for the rest of the year to enjoy the amazing conditions. Well I am still here.
At what age did you decide to move to Lanzarote and was Lanzarote your first place where you moved to after leaving UK? I was 30 years old when I came to Lanzarote. I had 2 weeks’ notice before leaving the U.K. My motto has always been, say yes and deal with any complications later.
Any windsurfing competition in your life as a water man? Right from the first time I stepped on a windsurfer. I have raced many types of racing craft, from very old to high performance. Large and small. When I started windsurfing there were only long boards, so that is what we sailed. Racing dinghies every week in the sailing clubs, it was not long before I raced my windsurfer against the boats for fun. My first board I bought was an Olympic Gold. It held the world speed record at 28 knots. That is why I bought it. Because I was always teaching I only did local races. I think I have raced every class. I have enjoyed being involved with all the different race formats to this present day. The only one I have not raced or sailed is the RSX. Oh, and I have not competed in the modern format of freestyle, my day was when we were using long boards.
Your quiver is a 3.3 Point-7 Swag. One sail does it all! Explain us your concept in windsurfing. Being small I have always used smaller sails and I must admit, only using a 3.3m is maybe a bit extreme. In the early days of racing it was not so bad as the sails were not so big. Once the sails got bigger than 7.5 in the class, it really left me behind. In formula the biggest sail I could use was a 9m but when windy smaller. I have always been working on small sails, out of racing my largest sail has always been around 4.7m. The wave boards were quite slow, so we needed sail. When the freestyle boards started to be developed, we had a fast, early planing, manoeuvrable boards. We could start to use smaller sails. Each year my sail seamed to get smaller and smaller.This has filtered down to wave boards and free wave boards. So yes, my sail now is the 3.3m Swag. But this is not just about boards going faster and planing earlier. It is also about sailing technique, adapting how you use the material.
So, the sail I use is designed for extreme conditions, not the conditions I use it in. It is not surprising it is my only sail as I have managed to adapt my style to make it work in light wind and of course I can use it in strong. My current wind range seems to be 12 to 35 knots. Ok I must work a bit at 12 and I am hanging on in 35. The amazing thing is I have the same setting through the wind range. I look forward to developing this sail with p-7, to fine tune it for the conditions I use it in getting the lighter wind range more efficient and maybe work on some smaller sizes. For my private sailing I do have a 1 board 1 sail philosophy now, it does make life easier. Having all the equipment to compete in all disciplines no longer interests me, I have gone to the other extreme.
You have just launched your new site. It has lots of technical very useful advices. Tell us more about this project. My new site is all about online learning. It can never replace live teaching or coaching which I would never do, but I aim to place down a structured way to learn. You can just use the online service if you wish, it’s main role is to give reference notes. After my coaching sessions, people often asked me for notes or where they can study. So, I started my archive site where they could read up on things, but I stopped updating it as it was getting to large. Plus, on my old site I did not do beginner windsurfing. It will be an ongoing project as it is not just about a beginner program. I will spend the rest of my life building it, it is like writing an autobiography about my windsurfing life.
You are now managing Windsurfing Club Las Cucharas with Eric and Lolo, how is the vibe from the spot? The vibe on Lanzarote is wonderful. We play hard and work hard. Playing is deliberately first. All my working life I have always trained before and after work, I have punished my body and it is now payback time. I may not be on the water so much now but before and after work I am still developing my wonderful sports. I have known Lolo for 29 years and Eric 25. Most of that time we have been very friendly competition. 7 years ago, I started working with them as I stopped my waterman academy and guest house and moved back to Costa Teguise. For general sailing my home spot now suits me very well, it can be very hard core but I enjoy it more mellow now. I pass those epic hard-core sessions to the younger generation now. You can have my line-up with pleasure but save me a place for those occasional days I do venture out. Las Cucharas Is a spot where I can be on the water with every generation. Children experiencing there first playing with the Ocean to the elderly still going out but now need supervision, Age range I could say is 5 years old to, well Malcolm is 82. You want it hard core or soft, slalom, wave, free ride, SUP, surf. Well we have it all at this spot. Talk about the island, well it is just amazing. So here I am, using Point 7 sails. Itching to try out the new ideas the whole team are working on.
Why did you choose Point-7? I have always followed everything to do with windsurfing and taken every chance to find out how things work. Often being involved with brands that do sails and boards. This often means that their development is closely related. When possible, I like to test other brands to find out the direction they are going in. Point 7 is a sail brand that has one goal, make it faster and easier to use. Well that ticked my first 2 boxes on my list. Their flag ship the AC one is a truly amazing sail but do they follow that throughout their range? I had to look at the ACX, no cam race sail. My preferred race sail concept. Having no cams, it is easier to gybe and control in crowded situations. I was not disappointed. Waves are my thing and I hate slow sails. I use fast wave boards so the sail must match. Riccardo is always asking for faster and faster sails so I thought these sails must be for me and yes, they are. Which take us to the sail of my choice. The Swag 3 battened sail. I like small sails and I have been following the development of the 3-batten system from its introduction, not always liking the direction the development was going. Last year I was sitting down with Andrea chatting and I asked if I could try the smallest Swag they do. With his concept I thought I could go smaller than my 3.7m only sail, so he sent me one, a 3.3m. Yes…….. it ticked all the boxes. During the training month this February we had many happy hours chatting and many questions arose, possible directions the development could go in.